A lone mosque remains after the 2004 tsunami. Picture: AP

For most of us, the terrible 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was a disaster that we reflect on as the years drift by – but for a number of mothers in Indonesia every day is a day to remember.

Six years after the tidal wave claimed 230,000 lives in 12 countries, those mothers cling to hope that their lost children are still alive.
They believe that the youngsters were swept ashore many miles from their homes and were then adopted by families who had lost their own children.
Among the hopefuls is a 43-year-old mother who today lies in a hospital with severe injuries, suffered when a mob of villagers attacked her as she tried to interview a girl she believed was her missing daughter.
The sad story of Titik Yuniarti’s search for her daughter Salwa, who was aged six when she was swept from her arms when an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami, typifies the search that scores of other mothers have embarked on in the hope of finding their lost loved ones.
Titik said from her hospital bed in the Indonesian region of Aceh, which was the most badly hit area among all the countries from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and Thailand, that she had a dream telling her that her daughter had been found alive and was with a family in the town of Langsa.
With a friend, she travelled for six hours along a bumpy coastal road before going from school to school showing teachers and students photos of her daughter.
‘After three days, we finally met a girl named Febby,’ Titik said, her face covered in bruises, an intravenous drip in her arm.
‘She had the same tumble of black hair, a freckle over her lip. Some people even told me she’d lost her parents in the tsunami and had been adopted.
‘I was still afraid to believe it, but in my heart I thought “it’s her – it’s really her.”‘
But when she and her friend returned to a village where they had met the girl, a mob was waiting for her and accused her of wanting to abduct the 12-year-old to sell her organs.
‘Some people shouted “Hang her! Hang her!’ and others set alight the building where we had been staying,’ said Titik.
Then the mob beat them with sticks and rocks before police arrived and arranged for them to be taken to hospital.
The girl’s mother, Ainun Mardiah, said she would be happy to take a DNA test to prove that the child is her’s, not Titik’s.
Titik’s desperate hunt for a daughter who was lost in the tsunami is just one sad case among many, say officials of Indonesia’s Social Ministry office.
‘A government programme that reunited nearly 1,600 children with their parents closed in 2006,’ said Farida Zuraini, a ministry spokeswoman. ‘We offer assistance as needed but the number of requests has dwindled.’
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As we prepare to remember the 230,000 people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago, a tragic aftermath of that terrifying event has emerged in Indonesia.
A 10-year-old boy whose parents died when that giant wave smashed down their home has been charged with savagely murdering his adoptive mother after she allegedly taunted him about having no real mother and father any more.
The boy, who has not been named, comes from the island of Nias, which lies off the south west coast of Aceh, the worst-hit region of the tsunami, described as ‘ground zero’, where more than 170,000 people died on December 26, 2004.
It has not been revealed how he survived or the exact circumstances of how his parents died, but he was eventually adopted by Etty Rochyati, who was aged 50 when she took him into her care.
But, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has established, the relationship between the orphaned boy and his new mother was far from loving.
The commission has learned from police that the boy had told them his adoptive mother had threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not obey her.
She is said to have taunted him with words like: ‘Don’t you know that you don’t have a mother and father any more?’
Etty Rochyati has been found dead in a ditch near her house in Ciracas, East Jakarta, with multiple wounds to her head, having possibly been beaten with a blunt instrument, and a stab wound to the stomach.
Police who questioned the boy claim he told them he had killed her because she had taunted him about being orphaned after the tsunami.
Now the child protection commission is fighting to save the boy from a lengthy prison sentence, claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.
Mr Arist Sirait, secretary general of the commission, said that if the boy was formally accused, the charge should be under a law relating to ‘violence leading to death’ which carries a sentence of 10 years but which allows minors to serve only a third of that sentence.
Mr Sirit said police investigators had failed to consider the mistreatment the orphaned boy had received from his adoptive mother as she raised him following the death of his parents in the tsunami.
‘What the boy did may be seen as self-defence against abuse and was not intentional,’ he said.
The boy, he said, had been traumatised following the tsunami and the authorities were not dealing with a 22-year-old man ‘but a 10-year old who is unstable and still has a long life ahead of him.’
The child’s future now rests in the hands of judges of the East Jakarta Court and relatives of the boy’s adoptive mother.

The Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 230,000 lives

The Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 230,000 lives

As we prepare to remember the 230,000 people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago, a tragic aftermath of that terrifying event has emerged in Indonesia.

A 10-year-old boy whose parents died when that giant wave smashed down their home has been charged with savagely murdering his adoptive mother after she allegedly taunted him about having no real mother and father any more.

The boy, who has not been named, comes from the island of Nias, which lies off the south west coast of Aceh, the worst-hit region of the tsunami, described as ‘ground zero’, where more than 170,000 people died on December 26, 2004.

It has not been revealed how he survived or the exact circumstances of how his parents died, but he was eventually adopted by Etty Rochyati, who was aged 50 when she took him into her care.

But, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has established, the relationship between the orphaned boy and his new mother was far from loving.

The commission has learned from police that the boy had told them his adoptive mother had threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not obey her.

She is said to have taunted him with words like: ‘Don’t you know that you don’t have a mother and father any more?’

Etty Rochyati has been found dead in a ditch near her house in Ciracas, East Jakarta, with multiple wounds to her head, having possibly been beaten with a blunt instrument, and a stab wound to the stomach.

Police who questioned the boy claim he told them he had killed her because she had taunted him about being orphaned after the tsunami.

Now the child protection commission is fighting to save the boy from a lengthy prison sentence, claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.

Mr Arist Sirait, secretary general of the commission, said that if the boy was formally accused, the charge should be under a law relating to ‘violence leading to death’ which carries a sentence of 10 years but which allows minors to serve only a third of that sentence.

Mr Sirit said police investigators had failed to consider the mistreatment the orphaned boy had received from his adoptive mother as she raised him following the death of his parents in the tsunami.

‘What the boy did may be seen as self-defence against abuse and was not intentional,’ he said.

The boy, he said, had been traumatised following the tsunami and the authorities were not dealing with a 22-year-old man ‘but a 10-year old who is unstable and still has a long life ahead of him.’

The child’s future now rests in the hands of judges of the East Jakarta Court and relatives of the boy’s adoptive mother.

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